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Maddie wasn’t looking for romance.
Home and family is all she ever wanted, but memories of her childhood with an alcoholic mother haunt her to this day. So now, when success and happiness beckon, Maddie’s not sure whether to take the chance.
A single mother for the past ten years, Maddie’s been too busy for love, and too busy trying to make ends meet to jump start her sagging photography career.
Brokenhearted when her daughter leaves to live with her father for the summer, Maddie decides to embrace the unexpected freedom and accepts the offer of the first solo show of her moody black and white photographs.
Leaving Seattle and the safety of her job at an upscale art gallery, she heads to Washington State’s Majestic Lake where, in a rustic cabin on the lake, she finds the inspiration she needs and sets up her dark room.
A traumatic childhood has left her a loner. It’s always been safer that way. But maintaining her distance is almost impossible in a town like Fortune Bay, and despite her best efforts, she slowly realizes that this is the life she’s always wished for but never thought she could have: inspiration, real friends, and the man and family of her dreams.
But now, when success and happiness beckon, Maddie’s not sure whether to take the chance, or if it will all blow up in her face when the people of Fortune Bay discover who she really is.
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Read an excerpt:
The day after the picnic, Jake took Sarah to Colleen’s for the afternoon so he could work on the kitchen. He wanted to cut a new window but was afraid to start. His concentration was scattered, all he could think about was Maddie and the tongue-twisting kiss they’d shared the evening before. When he realized he was staring at the blank kitchen wall, he decided enough was enough. He took off his tool belt, hung it on the back of a kitchen chair and headed out the door.
When he reached the cabin, he paused on the porch. The darkroom door was wide open; the room was empty. He stood in the doorway, hands behind his back and looked inside. A row of eight by tens was lined up on the counter. Maddie had never offered to show him how she developed the black and whites, but now he wanted to know. He wanted to know everything about her.
Maddie stepped out of the cabin, onto the porch. Her eyes widened when she saw him standing in the darkroom doorway.
Silence hung in the muggy air between them. “Show me,” he said.
Her eyes darted left and right as if looking for a place to hide. She rubbed her palms on her shorts and smiled at him thinly. “Look at any you want.”
“No. Show me how you do it.”
“Oh, that.” She bit her lip. “If you really want to see.”
He tried not to look at her lips. “I do.”
Nerves shimmered off her in waves. She didn’t move, so he took a step back into the closet-sized room to give her room to pass.
She squared her shoulders, stretched her neck to one side as if it had suddenly developed a kink, and crossed the porch to the darkroom door. Flipping over the ‘BUSY’ sign that hung on the door, she closed the door firmly and turned the lock.
She frowned at him over her shoulder. He could tell he was making her nervous. He shoved his hands in his pockets to make sure he wouldn’t reach for her. Not yet.
She took a deep breath and stepped into the narrow room, closing the bathroom door and kicking scatter rugs into the cracks beneath both doors with her feet. Then she went to work.
“This is the wet side of the room,” she said. Her voice came out in a hoarse squawk. She cleared her throat. Lining up three plastic trays on the counter, she filled them from three plastic jugs stored on the shelf underneath, then ran water into another tray in the old cement laundry sink in the corner.
She turned to the opposite wall, pulled a binder down from a high shelf and set it on the counter. “This is the dry side.”
He looked over her shoulder as she leafed through the pages of the book. On the left were plastic sleeves of negatives, on the right, rows of tiny black and white photographs.
“What are those?”
“Contact sheets.” She cleared her throat again. “I develop the negatives in this small size first, to see which ones are good enough to enlarge.”
She flipped back and forth in the book, murmured, “I don’t know,” pushed her hair behind her ear. Finally, she found a tiny picture that seemed to satisfy her and pulled a negative strip from a sleeve on the opposite page. She held it up to the light, then turned abruptly and walked straight into his chest.
“Sorry,” he said. He tried to step back to give her more room, but only gained a few inches before running into the laundry sink.
“It’s okay,” she answered, not looking at him.
“This is the enlarger,” she continued quickly, lifting the cover off a piece of equipment that looked like a giant microscope. Instead of looking in through the top though, she fed the negative strip into a high bracket, then switched on a small red light bulb in a socket plugged into an outlet on the wall.
Look at me, he thought, as if by telepathy he could turn her around and into his arms. He wanted to turn her by the shoulders, but instead, forced himself to follow her movements. She was letting him into her world. He would wait, and see.
Finally, she did turn. His fists clenched in his pockets. She looked him straight in the eye, reached over her head and pulled a string hanging from the ceiling. The room went dark.
The safelight created a halo of red in the center of the room with darkness crowding in on them from the edges. Squished like sardines in a closet, the thick warmth of the small space pressed in on him.
“Could be quite claustrophobic in here,” he murmured.
“You get used to it.” She brushed past him to reach up to a high shelf on the dry side for a flat box of paper. His fingers twitched, burning to run down her long sides as she stretched up inches in front of him. He tried to keep his mind on her actions but heat and the sweet scent of sunshine radiated off her neck, perfuming the intimate space.
“The paper is extremely light sensitive,” she said. “The slightest crack of outside light can ruin it for good, but the frequency of the red light is safe.”
She stood at the enlarger with her back to him and he moved in, longing to blow on the soft hairs on nape of her neck where her ponytail was falling down.
Her voice brought him back with a start. “This timer is connected to the enlarger. It only takes a few seconds to imprint the image on the paper.” At the flick of a switch, the enlarger glowed, showing a reversed, negative image of a child’s face that entirely filled the page below.
He stood behind her, trying to focus on the image. His turn to talk. He cleared his throat. “I see why they call it an enlarger.”
Jeeze. Could he sound any more stupid?
Energy pulsed off her body, arching to his across the sliver of space between them. The musk of her skin filled the warm dark. He closed his eyes and breathed her in.
The enlarger light clicked off and Maddie scooped up the paper, turned quickly and walked straight into his chest again.
“Sorry,” they said in awkward unison. His arms went out to steady her but he forced himself to drop them and step away to give her room.
She crossed to the wet side, barely two feet away, and swung the arm on the timer around, dropping the still blank sheet of paper into the first pan of liquid.
“Now watch this,” she said, her voice soft and diffused.
As she tipped the pan repeatedly, the liquid sloshed gently back and forth. He moved in close, hovering over her, echoing the curve of her body. He didn’t feel claustrophobic anymore and his throbbing blood had nothing to do with the confines of the space.
Still, he forced himself to concentrate on the process and, as he watched over her shoulder, the liquid rolled from one end of the tray to the other until patches of grey began to form on the paper. His interest piqued as the image slowly darkened under the clear elixir. Like magic, Sarah appeared on the page, a candy apple in her hand, a look of pure joy on her face.
His own face broke into an answering smile and his hands moved up to rest on Maddie’s shoulders. “Wow.”
“I know,” she said in complete understanding. “It does it to me every time.
“Quick now—move,” she ordered, and he jumped out of the way. She lifted the paper from the liquid with tongs, dropped it into the next tray of liquid and reset the timer. “This will stop the image from darkening any further.”
All business now, she tilted the second pan of liquid as she had the first, repeating the process in the last tray, then holding the picture under running water in the sink. When she turned around, her eyes wide and happy, she held a dripping picture of Sarah.
“Finished?” he asked, his voice a low rumble.
Her eyes flared, inches away, hot in the red glow.
“Yes,” she whispered, but she made no move to turn on the light.
He reached for her then, his lips closing on hers. To hell with September. He wanted her now.
The print dropped from her hand to the counter and she melted into the kiss. Like an addict, relief flooded his system as she wrapped her arms around his neck. This was what he needed, her body pressed against him, her curves molding to his chest.
He swung her around, against the door, bringing her hands up beside her head and pinning them to the wood. He deepened the kiss, mouths moving, tongues searching, exchanging heat for heat until she turned to wax beneath him.
A loud knock sounded through the door behind her. Jake sprang back, but kept her pinned to the door. She didn’t struggle. They were both breathing hard.
Frankie’s muffled voice called, “Maddie?”
He held her eyes in silence. Maddie’s lips pressed together, holding back a laugh.
“Working in here,” she called. “Be out in a minute.”
“Won’t she suspect something?” Jake whispered.
“You can’t stop in the middle.”
“Tell me about it.” He moaned quietly, leaning back in and gently grinding his hips on hers. A giggle escaped her as he gently bit her lower lip. He wasn’t nearly done, but he gave her another kiss and pushed himself away.
Maddie sagged against the door as if his weight had been all that was holding her up. Then, with her eyes on his, she reached up and turned on the light.
A slow smile lit her face. He leaned in and kissed her again. A quick kiss. He’d made up his mind. They’d waited long enough.
Sliding an arm around her waist, he unlatched the door and swung it open.
* * * * * *
If you want to read more, Summer of Fortune is available as an ebook or in paperback from Amazon, or FREE on Kindle Unlimited.
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